long run

Brighton Marathon 2014

Where to begin with this years’ Brighton Marathon? It’s been over a month since I ran my second marathon and I’ve still not got round to posting about it. This is in part due to a genuinely hectic few weeks at work (often up at 5am and not home until nearly 8pm, eat, sleep, repeat), as well as some busy personal weekends. Thankfully, due to the wonders of my memory and my Garmin, the race is still pretty fresh in my mind! So I’ll do my best to share what this years’ experience was like.

The race itself was on Sunday the 6th of April, but we had to head over on the 5th to go to the Expo (short review of the expo: was a bit better than last year, good food freebies) and pick up our race packs. When I say ‘we’ I’m referring to myself and my brother-in-law Ben, who was running his first marathon. We also had support from my wife Becca, his fiancée Sarah and my parents-in-law who had moved back to the UK after 4 years working Papua New Guinea just the weekend before and were still recovering from jet lag. After Ben and I had got our race packs and numbers and been to the Expo, we went back to the flat my in-laws had someone arranged for themselves through a friend.

Yes, it really was that close to the Elite start

Yes, it really was that close to the Elite start

Yes, the flat they had was directly opposite the elite start! Not a bad view for them and only 10/15mins walk from the main race start. After the evening there we were off to bed. Pre-race sleep is always tough and this time wasn’t an exception, not sure if it’s nerves or adrenaline (most likely a bit of both) but I only got about 5hrs sleep before we were back off to the flat so Ben and I could get ready to run. A brief walk down to the start line and we were there and ready to go.

The queue for the portaloos

The queue for the portaloos

Last year, I was part of a group running for charity and we were at the start at least an hour before the start with a lot of waiting around. This time we were there with about 25 minutes to go, and I spent 24 of those minutes queueing for the toilet. Now, without going into too much detail, I’m nervous before a run and my digestive system does funny things, so I’d taken an Imodium to try and avoid any mid-race hiccups. I got to my start pen with about a minute to spare, joining the very back of the 3:15-4hr group, knowing that I would never get anywhere near the 3:30 pacer that I wanted to guide me around. Last years race was started by an England cricketer, this year it was Paula Radcliffes turn, the world record holder at the marathon, she was privileged this year to get not one high-five from me, but two. I’m sure 12,000 people down the line her hands were sore! We were off!

Brighton Marathon 2014

Brighton Marathon 2014

My target for this year was 3:30, which, having done a 1:39 half marathon recently was a challenging target but not out of the realms of possibility given that training has gone pretty well, despite work commitments making the last couple of weeks a challenge to taper effectively. Last years 4:07 was definitely going to get beaten and sub 4hrs was my minimum goal. To achieve 3:30 means averaging around 8minute miles for 26.2 miles. Much like last year, the first mile at Brighton is a struggle to set off at race pace due to the volume of people, some sharps turns around the park, and one of the sharpest hills on the course. Weaving in and out of the people saw my first mile include a little walking and an average pace of 8:55. I’d already lost nearly a minute of my scheduled pace!

Luckily I remembered from last year the problems I had with trying to catch up too much pace too soon. There was still 25miles to go, averaging 7:58 for those miles would have got me back to 8min miles by the end of the race, I didn’t need to do a 7minute mile and catch it up instantly.

The next 10 miles all were safely within the 8:05-7:48 minute mile range, and the average pace was getting close to 8mins, I was well on track to finish strong. Due to some changes to the route early on, one of the biggest hills around mile 10 was removed, and there followed 3 nice gradual down hill miles to the sea front, clocking in at 7:58, 7:53 and 7:54.

Unlike last year I was running alone this time around and really looking forward to seeing Becca and family at the half way point. I passed them feeling strong and gave the pre-arranged ‘two thumbs up’ meaning I felt strong. At Mile 13.1 I did feel strong, I’d fuelled according to plan with a  couple of Jelly Babies every couple of miles and the pace just under 8min/mile was feeling comfortable. Then, all of a sudden, it didn’t.

I’m not quite sure why but just after halfway and seeing Becca, everything began to feel difficult. Maybe adrenalin had got me to that point, but suddenly, things weren’t working as well as they had and much earlier than last year when I’d crashed around mile 19. My legs felt strong, but I had no energy, surely it couldn’t be the wall? I also felt like there was a massive rock inside my stomach, maybe it was the Imodium? I still think it was the right thing to do given the stomach issues on the day, but something I’ll try and avoid in future.

I struggled manfully on and the next 3 miles were 8:05, 8:09 and 8:18, getting steadily slower and each mile used up more effort. 3:30 was definitely not on the cards, whatever had happened, I was utterly spent. The last 8 miles were a bit (a lot) of a slog, I ran/walked the rest of the way back, averaged around 10:30mins/mile with a fastest mile of 9:19 (mile 26, for some reason I found the energy) and even ended up doing 7:08 pace for the final 0.2, showing my legs still had the pace in them, but something was wrong with my energy.

I crossed the line in 3:51:03, despite the horror of the last 8 miles, a 16minute PB/PR and was looking forward to meeting up with the family. I met Becca soon after and she brought me a mini Mars bar, something that both tasted amazing and gave me a massive energy boost last year, this year it made me throw up within minutes of the race finishing. More evidence that my stomach wasn’t in a good place. However, I was craving a cup of tea and that absolutely hit the right spot.

Next up on my list is the 100km Race to the Stones in July. I’m going to try a different approach for that, especially around the fuelling given what I experienced here. My plan is to eat differently, eat far less carbs and processed food and train according to heart rate. Teaching my body to burn fat for fuel instead of carbs, and hopefully avoid the dreaded ‘wall’ for a race nearly 2 and half times the length of a marathon!

What have you done to avoid ‘The Wall?’ Any tips and tricks to avoid it?


My running shoe addiction!

I have a problem with wanting more and more running shoes, my current collection is below, and all have had various amounts of usage in the last couple of years. I don’t think the amount I have is really acceptable, but I’ll still try to justify it and why I have all the shoes I do!

The collection

The complete collection, all have done a varying amount of miles.

As the above shows, there are 10 different pairs of running ‘shoes’ there, all of them are marketed and sold as running footwear (yes even the sandals). This doesn’t include the various other non-running trainers that I have too, I could have filled the table top!

Fivefingers and Xero Shoes

Left to Right: Vibram Bikila, KSO and Xero Shoes

I’ll run through them in terms of ‘minimal cushioning’ to the maximum cushioning, finishing with my trail shoes. The above shows the most minimal of my running shoe collection. The Vibram Fivefingers Bikila on the left were purchased in America and helped start my running bug. Sadly I’ve done no more than 20miles total running in them as I didn’t really know what I was looking for when I tried them on, and ended up getting them at least a half-size too small. I have an issue with my left foot being a clear half-size bigger than my right, and in footwear designed to be very closely fitted to the foot this causes problems, and I get pain just behind the toes of my left foot when I run in these. I still enjoy wearing them around the house and they’re the perfect beach shoes! Later on I got my second pair of Fivefingers, the black and orange KSO, but I got them a half-size bigger, which is a more comfortable fit, but the flip side of this that whilst they fit my left foot fine now, they’re now a half-size too big on the right, which causes blisters. I do wear them around the house a LOT, and for shorter runs where I want to focus on my running form and landing gently, as these shoes won’t let you land on your heel when running on concrete!

The final shoes in this picture are my Xero shoes, I actually won these in a Twitter contest (yes people really do win these) from www.feetus.co.uk. Whilst they’re designed for running, I’ve only done a gentle 5km in them late last summer, and despite me having run a lot in low-drop shoes by this point, my calves were screaming! I don’t think they’ll be a regular part of my running shoe rotation,  they’re definitely not a winter shoe but they’re great for walking around in the summer.


Skechers Go Run Ride and Go Bionic

Now onto the real running shoes. Not many people realise that Skechers make some VERY good running shoes. Their Skechers Performance division has produced some amazing shoes in the last few years and they’re become more and more accepted as a serious running shoe. They’re definitely more than just bum-toning shoes! I got both these pairs of shoes on the same day. The blue Go Run Rides are a more cushioned shoe, and whilst very light, the grey Go Bionics are even lighter as a result of the lesser cushioning and zero heel-toe drop.

The Go Run Rides are a 4mm drop shoe and due to the combination of lightness and cushioning I’ve done nearly 240miles in them (running miles, I’ve walked plenty of others too) and they feel even better now than when I first wore them, in fact, for the first 30 or 40 miles I was disappointed in how they felt, the just didn’t seem to have a nice spring to them. Suddenly, after putting 50miles in them they seemed like they’d been made to fit my foot. They’re now my first choice go-to shoe for my long road runs, and I’d be happy to replace them with a second pair whenever it is that they come to the end of their lifespan.

I’ve done 100miles of running in the Go Bionics and due to the lower cushioning and zero drop nature of the shoes I find that I can only manage around 10miles at a time in these shoes, but they are a definite part of my rotation especially for when I want to focus on my running form, the zero drop just allows me to land correctly. These are by far the most comfortable of my running shoes for walking in, and have a permanent place by my front door, as with the addition of elastic laces (I’m a fan of these), they slip on within seconds and can be worn either with socks or barefoot equally well. My only concern with these is that I’m not a fan of the look, they feel fast, but don’t look it.

After my positive experience with these shoes I have my eye on the Go Bionic Trail shoes and the brand new Go Run Ultra. Skechers performance, but with trail grip!

Inov8 Road-x 233

Inov8 Road-x 233 (x2)

Next up is last years Marathon shoes (the Grey/Green ones), my Inov8 Road-x 233, a 6mm drop shoe with minimal cushioning that got me through last years Brighton marathon. I almost exclusively wore these for my training and the marathon itself and now with over 330 miles on the clock you can clearly see the wear on the heels. It seems as though, despite my best efforts, I can’t help but slide my heel in when I land, most notably on the left foot, which has far more wear and tear than the right. I loved these shoes so much that I bought a second pair in a different colour scheme, in which I’ve done 90 more miles. These shoes just match my feet perfectly, and are comfortable from mile 0 to mile 330m. I’ll just be sad when I final retire the shoes I ran my first marathon in for good.

Adios Boost

Race day shoes – Adidas Adios Boost

Next up are my race day shoes, Adidas Adios Boost, the only shoe in my collection that matches the profile of a ‘traditional’ running shoe, with a  10mm drop. The thing I like about them is the Boost cushioning gives them a real springiness in the heel, but a more firm feel under the forefoot, so they don’t ever feel like that high a drop. I’m trying to keep these in good condition for race days, so they’ve only done 80 or 90 miles so far. I set my Half Marathon PB in them last September, and I’ll be taking them to Silverstone Race Circuit with me this Sunday to try to set another one.

Hoka's and Trail Gloves

Trail Shoes: Hoka Rapa Nui and Merrell Trail Gloves

Finally, my trail shoes, one on the minimalist end of the spectrum from Merrell and the super cushioned (Yet still low drop) Hokas. The Merrell Trail Gloves are what I wore for my first race (The Great South Run/Limp), and were bought in the Lake District on our first wedding anniversary weekend, when I decided that I wanted to do some trail running to make a change from pounding out time on the pavements. Sadly, I didn’t really know what I was looking for in a trail shoe and ended up getting them at least a half-size (possibly even a size) too small, and after losing my big toe nail of my left foot due to it banging against the front of the toe box, I was happy to retire them to be my ‘cutting the grass’ shoes, for which they are perfect!

Finally, my most recent acquisition, my Hokas, these have only done around 60miles in, so are still getting warmed up, but they’re what I’m currently considering best suited of my current collection for the 100km Race to the Stones in July. The combination of cushioning, comfort and with a low drop means they tick all the right boxes. I’m hoping to hit the trails a bit more once the marathon is done and we’ll see how they go.

So that’s my shoe collection, there’s more than there probably should be, but they were all bought to serve a purpose!

Jantastic Update and an awesome Long Run

Another week of Jantastic complete successfully, sadly I had to use my February joker to achieve 100% as due to a crazy work load and the hideous weather (we’ve lost 3 fence panels this week) I’d not been able to get out as much as I would have like. The only run I did other than my long run was squeezed in at 10pm as a 4 mile run home after dinner with friends. 4 miles directly after a steak dinner+desert+cake was an interesting challenge!


Luckily, an easy week meant I was well rested for the weekend long run of 18miles. It was the same route as last week but in reverse, I also was going to make sure I’d fuel better before and during the run. Last week if experimented with depleting my carbohydrate resources and simulating the infamous ‘hitting the wall’, and the end result was my worst long run ever!


Luckily this week was notably easier, I even thought of tagging on another 2 miles to get up to 20, but was sadly running out of time. Instead, I aimed to finish strong and despite averaging 9:04 per mile, my final mile was a 7:30 and I still felt like I had more left in my legs. A complete change from last week and massively encouraging with only weeks to go before my next marathon. It re-illustrated to me the importance of having a fuelling strategy in training, both as practice for the race day and for simply getting you round on your training day!